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A challenging football season for the Devils

By November 17, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

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“Would I change anything?”

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Davis High football coach Steve Smyte paused. The questioner pushed him, asking for an honest assessment after his Blue Devils went 1-9, getting hammered by everybody they played in a rugged Delta Valley Conference gauntlet.

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“We didn\’t have a lot choices,” the former UC Davis and Boise State assistant finally answered. “When we took over, that train had already left the station.”

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Smyte was named DHS football coach in May, after David Blackwell — named just four months earlier — resigned. Time was of the essence and the new football coach was forced into a hurry-up offense.

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“But would I change anything? Yes. I would have tried to get numbers (to build the roster). Knowing what I know now, I also would\’ve made more of the offense go through (quarterback) Shayne (Reagan),” Smyte offered. “Other than that? I don\’t think so.”

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Numbers to build the roster would have been increasing from 32 (of which about a dozen players stayed fully healthy) to something in the mid-forties or beyond.

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Having junior Reagan shoulder more of the load would have been because planned team nucleus

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Courtney Williams was injured early and missed more than half of the action in what became a woeful season.

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It was Smyte\’s plan to have his talented senior running back Williams line up in various spots, confusing defenses, using his sprinter\’s speed. Smyte was to have Williams punt, run back

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kicks and play safety — often shadowing the opposition\’s best receiver.

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When Williams cramped up in the first game, he didn\’t play the second half of a 31-6 victory over winless Armijo. After that, he was injured in Game 2 against Sacramento and things began a downward spiral.

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In the third game, at Will C. Wood, Williams was again injured — and this time would sit out four straight games. Tight end Peter Smith went down with a toe injury

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and wide receiver Dillard Brown received an ear-drum puncture. Three-fifths of the skills positions on offense went on the blink.

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“We actually played a great second half at Colfax,” Smyte remembers. “But the injuries got to us. When you have 32 on the roster, and a third of them get hurt …”

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But Smyte saw tons of silver linings.

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“It was exciting that our quarterback set those records,” the coach smiled.

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Reagan, who started the season sharing time with Dane Denkers, elevated his game early. When Denkers was needed elsewhere, Reagan had become the unchallenged starter.

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All the rocket-armed junior did was set a new school mark with five touchdown passes against Elk Grove on Oct. 29 in a thrilling 45-37 loss in front of an appreciative home crowd.

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Ultimately, his 18 scoring tosses also became a DHS seasonal high-water mark. Reagan threw for 1,519 yards and rushed for another 245 yards.

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Smyte liked that receivers Brown, Majed Eddin, Kristian Mackewicz, Corey Nelson and Smith performed brilliantly in Williams\’ absence. With no ground game, the Blue Devils became an aerial circus.

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While Davis was scoring, its defense — undersized and hurting — couldn\’t hold ground. Don Jackson of Laguna Creek rushed for five TDs and more than 400 yards. Seven other running backs went over 100 yards against the locals and every opponent in DVC scored at least 42 points on the Devils.

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Smyte understood why and didn\’t blame his players or coaches. DHS just did not have the beef to stall anyone.

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“We did some things that I thought were pretty good,” the first-year high school coach continued. “But then we had all those injuries and that was that.”

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Despite having coached at a national power D-I school (Boise State), being involved with a couple of professional teams and spending years under Bob Biggs at UCD, Smyte says this season was different from any other. He comes out with a sense of pride, despite the record.

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“The true character of people comes out when it is the toughest,” Smyte points out. “These kids never pointed fingers, ever. These were a bunch of guys who cared for each other … and learned about teamwork and camaraderie.

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“I\’d rather have these guys with our record than be 9-1 with a bunch of jerks. Are these (Blue Devils) going to be good husbands and fathers? That\’s what\’s important to me.”

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Notes: The Davis High football banquet will be conducted Dec. 4 at Harper Junior High. … Despite the thigh injury, Williams gained 523 yards. In DVC, the Blue Devils allowed 244 points in five games. Overall, DHS was outscored 133-377. A closer look at the schedule, however, shows that the locals played six playoff teams — Colfax, Wood, Grant, Sacramento, Monterey Trail and Franklin. If you throw out 0-10 Armijo, Davis played schools with a combined 56-34 regular-season record.

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— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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